or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Beat Crazy

Well, here's just a terrific word I'd never heard before tonight. It's in this Snopes.com page about crybaby American fundamentalists who, ever flailing about trying to find something to whine about, are up in arms that the inscription "In God We Trust" is supposedly going to be removed from the new coinage:

Actually, the Presidential $1 coins incorporate a few new design features not found on other current U.S. coinage, one of which is that elements typically displayed on either the obverse or reverse of U.S. coins--the year of minting, the mint mark, the motto from the Great Seal of the United States("E Pluribus Unum"), and the current national motto of the United States ("In God We Trust") --will instead be included as edge-incused inscriptions.

My first thought when I saw the word "incused" was, "Gee, never seen that one before!" My second thought was, "Gee, I wonder if they meant to say 'incised'?" And my third thought was, "Nah, it's Snopes, so clearly it's a word I've never seen before."

And so it turns out to be. To incuse something--specifically, a coin or medallion--is to impress a design on it by stamping or hammering. This word comes from Latin "incudere", "to forge with a hammer", logically enough, and this in turn is compounded from "in-" and "cudere", "to beat". An incus, by the way, is an anvil--something which gets hammered--and "incus" is another name for the tiny bone in the ear which I'd always known as the anvil. (I knew that the other two were called the malleus--that means "hammer"--and the stapes--"stirrup"--so how is it that I'd never heard the word "incus" before, as far as I know?)

Since "incuse" exists, and comes from "to beat", wouldn't it be glorious if "excuse" somehow had the same root? You don't need me to tell you that it doesn't: it comes from Latin "causa", "accusation", instead.


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